REVIEW festival Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

Post-Apocalyptic Drum & Bass At Arcadia, Bristol

Bristolians love a gnarly drum and bass party party. And as parties go, you can't get much gnarlier than dancing under a giant metal spider, engineered from the cast off parts from military spy planes.

It was still light when we arrived at Arcadia, so we could get a good look at the alien arachnid, which is constructed from helicopter blades and spy plane engines and wouldn't have looked out of place on the set of Mad Max. Brainchild of Bertie Cole and Pip Rush Jansen, the spider was originally built in Bristol (in a cowshed, no less), and has returned to the city of its birth for a spectacular weekend of electronic musical loveliness.

Coinciding with Bristol's 2015 Green Capital accolade, Arcadia's axiom of reusing and up-cycling the tools of war for the far more peaceful business of dancing is a near-perfect way of showing us all just how fun recycling can be.

As dusk fell and the sky took on an indigo hue, giant jets of flame and lasers spewed from the beast as Natty Congo took to the decks, rousing the crowd with his dub-inspired brand of Jungle, and the robotic spider awakened.

Warmed by fire and craft beer, the pleasingly diverse crowd stood slack-jawed in amazement as miniature mechanical spider babies moved along their steel webs, plucking people from the crowd and depositing them into clear plastic zorbs.  But the best was yet to come.

At three points around the central 360 degree spider stage, were circular stages, reserved for the sheer lunacy of the performers known as The Lords of Lightning - so named due to their particular speciality: channeling the awesome power of Tesla coils which generate 4 million volts of electricity. Wearing special conductive suits, the dancers manipulated powerful forks of lightning so that when they moved, electricity shot far into the air around them, the static buzz creating music the likes of which I've never heard before.

Next to play in the spider were dance music legends, Leftfield, who’s ethereal DJ set turned narrative as we were told the Metamorphoses story, intertwined with new versions of classics such as ‘Feel the Pressure’. Akin to the famous recording of HG Wells’ War of the Worlds, a mechanical voice spoke of alien technology landing on earth and abducting people.

Except, unlike in the original, the abductees' fate seemed to be having a jolly good time performing acrobatics and shooting flames out of their mouths. Much better than ending up being used as human fertilizer.

Last to perform to the throng of now thoroughly charged party-goers was Bristol's own Roni Size, Mercury Music Prize winner and creator of the first ever fully live and instrumental drum and bass collective: Reprazent. Roni Size and the Reprazent crew brought Arcadia to a climactic finale with the epic sounds of infinitely complex drumbeats and exploding pyrotechnics.

The night was near perfect: a happy go lucky, friendly bunch of revelers, awesome music, and an all-encompassing visual extravaganza, which is not to be missed. Don't play with fire or you're gonna get burned, isn't that what we are told? Thank The Lord that the folks at Arcadia ignored this advice or the world would be missing a spectacular event.

To find out more about Arcadia
click here. To visit the Arcadia Facebook page
click here. Words & pictures by Lisa Pepler